The Many Costs of Racism

We have all heard the story that America is a nation of active citizens and joiners (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1840) — resulting in a citizenry that joins together for the common good. However, according to Harvard professor Robert Putnam, social capital—which is about connections, reciprocity, and trust—is on the decline and consequently, American civil society is on the decline. Putnam lists many reasons for this decline in our modern lifestyles, but I believe that nothing decreases connections and trust among Americans more than racist public policies such as Arizona’s SB 1070 law.

We need to consider the costs that this policy will have on the overall American story of connectedness. Not surprisingly social capital among blacks and Latinos is already significantly lower than among whites (See link here.) However, it is important to consider that Latino citizens are a huge part of the population in Arizona. Pretending that Latino citizens aren’t a huge part of the population in Arizona and that these Latino citizens won’t incur gigantic costs in terms of civil liberties violations and sense of personal security is ridiculous. Despite Governor Brewer’s assurances that there will be no racial profiling against Latino citizens, anyone who reads the bill, which, “Requires officials and agencies to reasonably attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful contact where reasonable suspicion exists regarding the immigration status of the person…,” knows that it is patently obvious that long-time Latino citizens are indistinguishable from undocumented Latinos. “Reasonable suspicion” amounts to being Latino in Arizona. My father, a Latino living in Tucson, now feels uncomfortable around his white friends because they disagree about SB 1070. This is beyond a political or ideological disagreement.

For a Latino, this is about acceptance, respect, equality, and yes, trust. So, there are more than civil liberties violations and personal security at stake—it is about the ending of relationships between Latinos and whites, it is about separating life-long friends, maybe for good.

The story of Latinos living in Arizona after SB 1070 now is sadness, and at best for those Latinos who are citizens an increased fear–and hiding at worst for those who aren’t documented. It is about decreased community connectedness along racial lines on all counts. I know if I was an undocumented Latina about to give birth I would risk giving birth at home rather than going to the hospital and possibly being deported. Why can’t whites see the social and personal costs of this policy? Perhaps it is because most whites are between four to ten generations removed from their immigrant parents; immigration for them is some distant thing. Maybe this is why they do not realize we are all in the same boat. Maybe that is why they don’t see the costs of this type of racism on America.

De Tocqueville had it wrong. We are not a nation of active citizens and joiners. We are a nation of exclusion by race. If strong social capital is an important component of our nation’s civic health, then America will pay a huge cost for generations to come if we keep targeting Latinos.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    For further clarification of why I suggest this book on the practice of exclusion in this society (even though the book’s central focus is on capital punishment…of which all should care about anyway), is because the authors take this (the practice of social exclusion) back to the practice of slavery–what this nation was founded upon. Their work/theory in this book can certainly be generalized to other behaviors, beliefs, practices, etc., beyond capital punishment that persist into contemporary times. In order to put into place unjust laws and practices (such as the recent law passed in Arizona), and even practices that involve crimes against humanity, white society “others” those whom they wish to oppress, which is generally done through fabricated and highly distorted racist racial constructs. By doing so, they make the “other” as “not fully human”–people who don’t have any real feelings, emotions, etc. They are objectified and those whom, white society forces its own worst and most irrational fears upon–obviously lacking in their own self-reflection, considering the overwhelming majority living nightmares have have been inflicted by white people/society as the perpetrator. This also helps perpetuate across generations, what Joe et al., has noted before, social alexithymia, among white society. It’s a practice of upholding white privilege/supremacy at just about any costs and allows white society to have no conscious or make excuses for unjust and irrational beliefs and practices…. I hope that makes sense….

  2. ThirtyNine4Ever

    “Why can’t whites see the social and personal costs of this policy?”

    This may be taken as a rascist statement unless it applies to 100% of ‘whites’. I say this out of frustrations as a ‘white’ Arizonan who this does not apply to. Thank you

  3. jet sua

    I’d like to ask President Calderon of Mexico how his immigration officers determine the many illegal entrants to Mexico from Guatamala, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc. are not Mexican Citizens without resorting to “racial profiling” of which he accuses the USA. These people are not treated with kid gloves when detained and expelled.

    I think it is appropriate for every country to control who enters and remains within it’s borders. When the majority of illegal entrants are from a country that is racially homogenous, how can one avoid being accused of “racial profiling?”

    I understand the desperation that drives Latinos to enter the US (I’ve spent some time in Colombia and Honduras – and not on a vacation, either), so I am sympathetic to what a parent must do to provide for their family. I am not comfortable with the extreme rhetoric that decries any attempt to control our borders.

    • No1KState

      Oddly enough, we don’t live in Mexico and aren’t discussing Mexican policy. But I guess it would be good to get some advice.

      Even though illegal immigration is down and the borders are among the safest in the country, we’ve really gotta crackdown on those illegals! (I’m being sarcastic.)

  4. Will

    I’m sorry for commenting on this late.

    I doubt (most) whites will see the bigger picture of what’s going on in Arizona. Unfortunately, they see nothing wrong with such policies as they are blinded in the illusion that laws like that are meant to protect them and keep America “safe.” To many of them a safe America is a white America.

    ThirtyNine4Ever, I don’t want to sound harsh, but why can’t you as a frustrated ‘white’ Arizonian be frustrated at the real issue discussed and not worry about whether your feelings are hurt, or did you read it at all? What you’ve demonstrated was the typical white response, expressing hurt feelings as if it’s more important than the negative treatments toward people of color. In other words you want us to have sympathy for you and ignore the REAL issue.

    • No1KState

      I could not agree more!

      “Wah, wah, wah! I’m not racist. I just think it’s more important to clarify that not all whites are racists, even though every study shows that at least 93% are – it’s more important that you know I’m not racist before we can really discuss the impact the racism of other white people has on minorities. But before that, before we talk about counteracting racism, I would like you to pat me own the back cause I’m not racist. It’s just that my feelings are more important than those of minorities.” sniff, sniff

      For real – :eye roll:

      • ThirtyNine4Ever

        So instead of addressing my comment that yes that was a racist statement you personally attack me with words like “Wah, wah, wah!” Please KState, tell me why it is perfectly fine for Maria, Will and you to spout off Racists comments?

        • Seattle in Texas

          ThirtyNine4Ever–why are you trying to flip the script? Could you please provide your own personal definition of what “racism” is exactly and how it operates, followed with a explanation of how it is that all whites are not racist? Whites can work to be antiracist, but…I’m more curious to hear your own personal thoughts and explanations for your “reverse racism” suggestions….

          • ThirtyNine4Ever

            I think what is happening is that people aren’t really arguing with me, they are arguing with people they may have come across, in this case “typical white liberal”. I never made any claims about not being racist, I in fact absolutely can not understand what it is like to be in the racial minority in this country. I am by no means “colorblind” when it comes to most issues. I have a great deal of cynicism and because of that even some apathy when it comes to most political issues in fact. Just so you know what kind of person you are dealing with. To address your question I stumbled upon this blog because it came up first in a google search. I read the article and pointed out the one negative I could find in it. Why? I was outside in 110 degree weather for most of the day and probably in a very bad mood. I however stand by the factuality of what I said. Saying that everyone of a particular race has a certain negative quality, in this case the inability to see the costs of the recent AZ legislation, does in fact fit my definition of racism.

            Addressing KState’s response below I can see why points 1 and 2 would pretty much make my original post look silly, but it’s tough for me in the position of someone in the majority to really understand that. I can read it and understand the words but I don’t know if I can truly understand where you are coming from. I will concede that you are right on those two points in terms of this country at this time. As for your 3rd point, it seems you are saying that either you focus on my minor complaint or you focus on the Arizona law. I think you are out of line in your thinking. Replying to this blog with is not shifting the focus away from Arizona law. What would you have me do? I don’t think I have any new information on SB1070 or any new opinions against it that the people here haven’t heard time and time again. The people who frequent this place don’t need me to be a cheerleader for their cause here in order to keep the focus on fighting SB1070. I was pointing out one thing that I didn’t like, is that nit-picking and whining and unnecessarily contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian? Absolutely it is, but then from those statements to claim I am racially narcissistic? You are reading way more into what I wrote than is actually there. So yeah that was a jerk move on my part posting that. Also I can’t help defending myself when attacked so I kept at it, but again I think you are reading things into what I said that weren’t there.

        • No1KState

          Okay. I just wrote a really long post, then lost it. So I’ll try to make this quick and easy. Well, let me start by acknowledging that I was probably in a bad mood and harsher than usual. So I apologize for the personal attack, as it were; however, I do stand by my general sentiment: though you claim not to be racist, that your initial concern would be the perceived slight (And yes, I’m using that in this sentence a bit sarcastically. Often, minorities are described as reporting “perceived slights” as though those slights didn’t happen. So I’m using that specific term purposely to mean that you saw something that wasn’t there.) rather than the hypothetical (But not really. At any given money, tens of millions of women in America are about to give birth, right?) pregnant Latina foregoing hospital care and risking her health and the baby’s health is a manifestation of white privilege. That is, the privilege to have your concerns addressed first, and sometimes only, even though the situation for others is more dire.

          So anyway,

          1 – No one would understand the statement in question to apply to 100% of white Arizonans. So your protest is completely unnecessary.

          2 – To the contrary, and why there’s a “double standard,” when negative comments are made about racial minorities, they generally are taken to mean 100%, or at 99%, of the racial minority group in question.

          3 – Even assuming that the statement in question were racist, and let’s remember it’s not, surely you can agree that by comparison, our statements about you are quite minor versus the legalized racism in Arizona. Right? By forcing us to address your concern of being seen as racist, though you don’t hate racial minorities, you exemplify what some call racial narcissism, which is another form of white supremacy. That is to say, we shouldn’t have to address your perceived slight (and remember, there was no slight) before addressing the real life costs of racism to people of color, specifically in this case, Latina/os. (If you have more questions about that idea, please ask. I’m just tired right now and don’t feel like going into detail.)

          So to summarize, I could’ve been more polite, but in simple terms, you did come across as a crybaby and I’m not sorry for pointing that out.

  5. ancientreader

    Given the history they’ve hidden and we’ve discovered, it’s time that we move beyond talking about Christianity as though it’s a real idea about someone divine. It’s a mafia scam. According to history, the name of Jesus Christ represents change of identity of a black Jewish man name Yeshua. A revolutionist who was crucified according to Roman law for fearing he would overthrow Roman occupation 2010 years ago. The change of name serves to cover-up Roman crime against humanity, and wrongfully blame Jews for rejecting their messiah. Jesus Christ is the darkness of your mind. It was spread about by Roman Inquisition and Crusaders. Get away from the name of Jesus Christ.

    • Seattle in Texas

      I freakin love talking about Jesus man, even though thankfully (thank you thank you thank you to both grandpapa’s) I’m totally not religious–not anti-religious, just nonreligious…well I can be anti-religious actually at times actually…but overall non-religious…. But I don’t understand what Jesus has to do the main post here–I’m thinking you accidentally commented on the wrong post. ancientreader, I actually like just a little bit of what you said up there, but don’t get into it when you get all religious and paranoid. Firstly, serious religious scholars, even those who are Christians, take the question of whether Jesus even existed quite seriously and those who are not, respect the beliefs of the others but certainly can be and are, critical of the religions and the negative consequences that follow. Read Crossan and Reed’s work for example. Second, language issues–of course. How many times has the Bible been translated and reinterpreted, etc.? Not to mention Bible was written after Jesus was said to have existed, leaving such beliefs to rest on “faith” quite literally. The the whole “Jesus Christ is the darkness of your mind.” That’s not true for all people and Christianity, at least in the United States, has actually empowered some of the most oppressed communities–the Black Theological tradition for example. Some traditions are quite empowering…while others are most definitely quite the opposite. There isn’t anything wrong with believing in a higher power, be it Jesus Christ or a rock, as long as that belief in the higher power(s) doesn’t promote hatred, intolerance, and the exclusion of others, as well as preying on others (particularly the the socially vulnerable) for their own benefits…. I’m so curious, for the sake of fun here, if “Jesus Christ is the darkness of your mind” than exactly what is the “Light”? 😀

      May I leave a song for giggles?

      • No1KState

        Good looking out above with 34, Seattle.

        And thanks. That’s one of the better explanations of Christianity of read from a nonChristian. I can’t help but point out only the Gospels would’ve been written postChrist. Acts and the Epistles were all written in the immediate aftermath of His Ascension.
        Just wanna point that out, but on the whole, a hearty thanks.

        And sorry, ancientreader, for having been so snotty. But I do stand by my sentiments. I’m not sure what you’ve been told about Jesus Christ, but I dare say you’ve been misinformed. Antisemitic Christians only use the Crucifixion as an excuse. They’d be antisemitic regardless. Much like white racists aren’t racist cause the Bible tells them so.

  6. ftalker

    In a White supremacist country like the United States, social capital does not exist between the various cultures – it can only exist within them. This has always been true and always will.

    The idea that ‘social capital among blacks and Latinos is already significantly lower than among whites’ is nonsense because social capital cannot be quantified. It can never be lower, higher or equal; therefore, it can only exist or not exist. In this case, the latter pertains because of White supremacism.

    That ‘Latino citizens are a huge part of the population in Arizona’ is irrelevant to Whites because they are White supremacists. White supremacists are only democratic in their reasoning when they are in the majority. When they become (or fear becoming) the minority, they become overtly supremacist in their behavior out of a fear that the covert White supremacism they have tried to practice will induce those they fear to seek revenge on Whites. This, for example, is why so many Whites have left South Africa with the toppling of apartheid. The purpose of White supremacist laws targeting Latinos is to encourage them to leave because they are not welcome and to force those to leave who fall foul of the laws. White supremacists pretend to themselves that this will address the demographic in which they fear living as a cultural minority, surrounded by those their parents taught them to fear.

    ‘Pretending… Latino citizens won’t incur gigantic costs in terms of civil liberties violations and sense of personal security is ridiculous.’ The statement itself is ridiculous because it does not address the issue that Whites are happy to violate everyone else’s civil liberties. Arizona’s SB 1070 law makes Latinos second class citizens in their own country – as it is designed to do: To be a Latino is de facto probable cause. Such laws are also means for Whites to distract their attention away from the fundamental problems of White culture towards blaming those they label as inferior for those problems. ‘My father… now feels uncomfortable around his white friends because they disagree about SB 1070.’ Your father has a simple lesson to learn – that he should have learned years ago – he has no White friends; he never had and never will.

    ‘Why can’t whites see the social and personal costs of this policy?’ They can, they just do not see why they should care since their police enforce their White supremacy against their fear of becoming a new persecuted minority. ‘Perhaps it is because most whites are [many] generations removed from their immigrant parents…’ This is irrelevant: The reason for White supremacism is the material benefits it brings Whites; the guilt and the shame they have chosen to live with since this can easily be blamed upon those they label genetically inferior. Whites do realize ‘we are all in the same boat’, but their White supremacism is an attempt to deny this simple fact since it provides them with psychological advantages. Such as being able to walk the streets without the fear of White government officials harassing them. Whites have cherished these negative civil rights for centuries. As with pollution, Whites blank-out what they have done to the planet so that they can continue to live the good life on the basis of such rapine and pass on their present-day deficits as people to the next generation of Whites.

    The United States is not a ‘nation of exclusion by race’, but a nation of people convinced that Whites can be made into better people through moral exhortation and logical argument. White supremacism, itself, is predicated on this very notion that is used to both excuse and justify White supremacism. However, Whites will never change and Racism Review does not fully appreciate this quintessential cultural truism. One only has to look at ones own experience of their kind to find no examples of any White leopards having changed their spots. They can only be culturally ostracized and left to wither on their vine – not yours. They made their bed and are the only ones to sleep in it. Just make sure you do not get into bed with them, or else you will also suffer their fate. Whites have now given up pretending that they are no longer White supremacists and are happy to openly discriminate to prevent fundamental power structures from being altered in any meaningful way.

  7. No1KState

    @ 39 – You seem cool. You did identify yourself as a white Arizonan who did care about the personal cost. And it’s true that I’m lumping you in with others I’ve met without knowing you as well.

    But you make the first statement, without so much as a nod to the rest of the post. And from that, I can’t ascertain that you feel you can’t add anything to the discussion. All I can ascertain is that you feel it’s important to point out the potential racism of one the last sentences.

    Then you declare that Will, Maria, and I are being racist in our attacks against you. So yeah, sure. I found that racially narcissistic. That doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person cause up to now, you probably weren’t aware of this proclivity. What’s important is what you do from now on. At the very least, make a mental note that coming to a blog like racismreview and complaining about anti-white bias in one sentence of the post is not a good idea. You’ll be lumped in with the one-time posters who make moralistic claims about anti-white bias but refuse to see how that perspective only serves the agenda of white supremacy. My kudos for returning and keeping an open my mind.

    Stay cool. 110 degree heat is quite dangerous. And “viva Los Suns!” (Though, just to check my Spanish, shouldn’t it be Los Sol or something?)

    • No1KState

      I should add that I’ve been guilty of this sort of thing myself. I don’t think I’ve ever done so on this blog, but when I read posts on Latina/os, the very first thing that comes to mind is how African Americans are effected. When I first learned of the law placing certain restrictions on ethnic studies, what immediately came to mind was how it would impact black students. For a minute there, I completely forgot that the Latina/o students would be impacted as well, that there’re more Latina/o students, etc. When I learned that the law was aimed in particular at Latina/o studies, it snapped me back into reality.

      So I’m not commenting on your statements for a place of self-righteousness. I’m commenting as someone who’s being reading and studying race for several years now and as someone who’s aware of my own humanity (ie, to err is human).

      • ThirtyNine4Ever

        I have thought more about this. I’m sure if my initial statement was in the context of a long opinion on the article I would have come across better. I agree strongly with the article, and it has done nothing but to make my position against this law that much stronger. I have seen nothing divide this state in my adult life like SB1070, so many people who I know are for it. I have to believe they are not bad people, just misled and lied to over a number of years. They say things that I know to be just plain not true all the time. I’ve even heard some of them that think we can “close the boarders” without drastically increasing legal immigration and not for a second realize what they are actually saying. They don’t see that the main reason that the government has allowed and encouraged so many undocumented immigrants into this country is so they can be systematically economically exploited and that pretty much everyone in this state is guilty of benefiting economically from this exploitation weather they are aware of it or not. They just can’t seem to get our of their tunnel vision and look at the big picture. Most people I talk to in favor of SB1070 are scared middle/lower class white people who are afraid of sinking lower than they already have during this recession and are looking for a scapegoat. I have tried a realistic approach to fighting SB1070 in AZ. I concede that there is a lot of racial bias in this state. So I really just try to pick apart the law and find non-racial negatives in the law, and as you would expect from something (co)authored by someone as bigoted and anti-latino as Kobash there are just naturally tons of negatives in SB1070 to go around. I like to focus on the massive negative economic impact that will come just from the cost of enforcing the law and fighting the countless lawsuits from right-wing activists. That actually gets them thinking, and once you plant the seed of doubt it usually grows. I know it really isn’t the most intellectually honest approach, but I do think that approach seems to be the best for someone like me. When I get all idealistic I tend to start yelling at people, and that might make me feel better but it doesn’t really sway minds. With this particular law that is bad for so many reasons about to go into effect in a month and a half we have to do whatever we can.

        • No1KState

          Very well said, 39!

          I’m not sure if this will help or whether or not you already know. But, the border states are among the safest in the country as crime has actually gone down. And illegal immigration has gone down as well. Personally, I like mentioning that as of yet, I don’t see very many legal citizens rushing for jobs cleaning hotels or picking fruit. Especially not picking fruit.

          My own state has some people crowing for a similar measure. It’s only a relative few right now, but it is something I need to keep my eye on, you know?

          What I find my interesting/disturbing about the fear of illegal immigrants is that they’re not the cause of Americans’ economic insecurity. Like you said, the immigrants are being exploited. And the fact that labor unions have been weakened and the financial market deregulated is the reason for Americans’ economic insecurity. In fact, much of the policies that have led to our current situation are still championed by white middle/working class voters. Lower taxes (mostly for the wealthy); deregulation; pushes to end estate taxes (which only 550k citizens would have to pay); and, weaking the social safety net (basically because they were told that people of color were sitting around lazily essentially stealing the hard-earned tax dollars of hard-working white Americans).

          39, I’m really glad I got to hear your thoughts about the law. Not that it matters much, not like I can give you any prize money. But you’re alright with me. And do know that this earliest of, I hope, many discussions has caused me to take a good look at myself and make sure I don’t have any planks in my eye, as it were, before I dare to pick at the saw dust of others. So this hasn’t been a one-sided exchange. And like I said, I hope we can continue to share ideas in the future.

          Also, you should know this blog has been a place where lots of us can be idealistic. I do come here sometimes for “yelling therapy,” as it were. Or sometimes, a good crying session on those days when I feel like ftalker, like the situation is hopeless. If it’ll help you cope, feel free to join in!

          But anyway, good to really meet you.

          • ThirtyNine4Ever

            KState, thanks for the support and I’m always happy to have discussions that make me reevaluate how I think. I’ve noticed you and pretty much most of the people who comment on this blog seem like good people . I should comment one one thing you said, I’m sure plenty of legal citizens would be willing to pick fruit at much higher wage levels, leading to much higher fruit prices, leading to a drop in demand for fruit, leading to a cut in fruit growing, leading to farms closing and so forth making it’s way back around the economy. Now mind you there are plenty of undocumented immigrants working in manufacturing and construction so just imagine taking out a good portion of the backbone of the economy here like the anti-immigration folks want to do. Kind of scary living here lately!

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